I cringe when I notice my 15-month-old's little shirtsleeves climbing up his arms or his shoes getting snug. Clothes shopping for my energetic tyke with him in tow, however, usually means that I come home with little other than a wiggly, whimpering boy under my arm. You can buy most things on-line -- and that's how I've gotten around some of my shopping frustration. But shopping for shoes ... well, the Internet doesn't quite cut it.

When I was lamenting my next shoe-shopping trip, a similarly challenged friend turned me on to KidsNShoes, in North Hampton, N.H. The store began on-line, but when the owners realized that they routinely had excess inventory, they opened a retail store -- in my neck of the woods.

Nestled in a nondescript strip mall, the fairly bland facade and piles of shoes in the windows don't reveal the real treasure inside. Open the doors, and around the third set of shoe racks there's a collection of toys, train sets, and music makers that reel in even the fussiest shoppers. Sure, lots of stores have play areas for kids, but this one feels more inviting. Maybe it's the staff, who help engage and talk to the children while parents shop. Or maybe it's the fact that they do fittings while a child stands intently over the train table. Most likely, it's the combination of knowledgeable and patient staff, a huge selection, and toddler-tested-and-approved toys.

Admittedly, the toys aren't always enough to pacify my spirited shopper. And yes, he occasionally absconds with a pair of patent-leather Mary Janes and runs wildly around the shop, dumping boxes and chewing on sandals. But this store expects that from its customers, which is precisely why it works.

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